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Response to "A Response to The Absurd Claim that Capitalism Kills"


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#1 Darkademic

Darkademic
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Posted 15 November 2019 - 03:26 pm

This is a response to Twitter user @NoShamePolitics's response to my article The Absurd Claim that “Capitalism Kills”.
 

The article begins by listing a number of crimes which have been attributed to capitalism over the years, such as slavery, war, natural disasters, starvation, and disease. The article then asserts that these things are not in fact attributable to capitalism, since capitalism has been too poorly defined thus far to attribute these crimes to it. The article then goes on to list several definitions of capitalism, by which they could then go about judging the accurateness of these claims.
 
The definitions are as follows:
 
[...]
 
Already though, we have hit a couple of snags. It is asserted by the author that slavery falls outside the definition of capitalism. But, going by the definitions of Ayn Rand herself, slavery is actually quite permissible. If you were to give this definition to a slaveholder from the 1850s, he would find slavery to be quite compatible with capitalism. This is because slaves, at least in the traditional western sense, were not considered people. They were considered property and treated as such.

 
Individual rights are clearly defined by Rand, why pretend otherwise?
 
Later, you accept the dictionary definition, but would you still accept it if I defined "privately owned" as "composed entirely of jelly"? In the same way, I wouldn't accept Rand's definition of capitalism if the protection of individual rights didn't prohibit slavery.
 
Pursuing this "slavery is permissible" line of reasoning strikes me as disingenuous. No advocates of capitalism think slavery is permissible. By all means, claim victory against some all-encompassing version of capitalism that nobody defends, it has no relevance. This is the first and most simple premise of the article—that blaming capitalism in this manner "amounts to blaming a significant portion of humanity's problems on a notion of capitalism so all-encompassing as to be meaningless"—which a large chunk of your response simply ignores.

 

One might object that slaves are not property, they are people, and thus should not fall under the designation of property. But I would object to that by pointing out that that gives all the power to whoever defines what a “person” is. In practice, that has been the government’s job. This might seem to be an indictment of government, but it is actually quite the opposite; an indictment of capital. This will be further explained later.

 
I have no idea what you mean here, and you don't explain it later. Whether those in power (or anyone else for that matter) regard slaves as people is irrelevant.

 

Again, with the final definition, there is an issue. The definition of capitalism as provided by Capitalism.org is not so much a description of the system of capitalism found in our world but is instead a description of a very specific ideology, one which handily excludes all current examples of capitalism. Therefore, since it is defining a highly specific ideology and not the economic system as it exists within the generally dictionary-defined lexicon as illustrated by Merriam-Webster, it is not worth considering in the context of describing or analyzing capitalism’s crimes and will be discounted going forward.

 
I deliberately chose definitions of increasing specificity, and then used the broadest one for the remainder of the article.
 
This highlights the issue I've already alluded to above; you are using an all-encompassing definition of capitalism, while most proponents of capitalism will use more specific definitions. The latter aren't somehow invalidated by their specificity or their idealism, and you seem to think any arguments that apply to the former automatically apply to the latter.

 

Some might object to this and call it unfair. To illustrate my reasoning, I shall show the other side of the matter. I shall define socialism in the same style the above definition defines capitalism: “Socialism is an economic system in which all of the means of production and distribution are owned and controlled by democratically elected non-partisan worker’s councils, and the individual is free to join and leave the councils, and thus the workplace, as they wish, thereby preserving human liberty and freedom.”
 
This definition is not technically incorrect. I have just described a very specific form of council communism, and therefore, socialism. However, when a person says “socialism”, usually they are referring to the much more general umbrella definition, that is “An economic system in which the means of production and distribution or owned and controlled by the workers or the wider community” or “An economic system in which the means of production and distribution are owned and controlled by the state”. The same is true of the above definition of capitalism. While it is not technically wrong, it does not describe the system as a whole, but rather a specific subtype.

 
Even using your first, very specific definition of socialism, I could simply point out that you don't explicitly say murder is unacceptable, therefore any murder within such a system is permitted—and therefore, apparently, caused—by that system. I could also redefine "human" in the same way you say "person" could be redefined.
 
Whether it describes the system "as a whole" isn't the issue because, again, if such a system isn't supported by anyone, who are you talking to? "Slavery is bad!" Okay? "But the dictionary definition of what you support says it's acceptable!" Err, so? I don't think it's acceptable. I mean, come on. And this is putting aside (for now) the fact that even when using the broadest possible interpretation of capitalism, it still doesn't demonstrate a causal link between its characteristics and the evils you claim are caused by it.

 

The first sentence following the definitions is “Even just referring to the dictionary definition, it should be fairly clear that when you strip away any non-essentials, capitalism is simply a system in which property is privately owned.”
 
There the original author and I agree. This is a good, objective definition of capitalism. However, going forward, they proceed to muddy the waters somewhat. He then adds “Capitalism also explicitly protects more basic individual rights,”. This is problematic. Capitalism is an economic system, and while economic systems can be enacted with an intent to help or hinder individual rights, and can have an effect on those rights, the systems themselves cannot have a position on those rights. An economic system is just a description of how and a prescription for the ways in which wealth should be created and distributed.
 
To try and attribute to any economic system a requirement to either help or hinder the people participating in the system is to commit a category error. That is not the role of an economic system. The prescription, description, and protection of rights is the role of the government, which is an extension of the will of the people.

 
Again, there are multiple definitions of capitalism. By declaring the more specific definitions invalid, all you're doing is refusing to engage with the concepts being referred to by anyone using them.
 
It's only a "category error" because you've defined capitalism as being restricted to the sphere of economics whereas, for example, the capitalism.org definition defines it as a "social system based on individual rights". It's clear at this point that your argument largely hinges on tailoring the definition of capitalism such that you can attribute whatever you want to it. How is this possible when one of my central points in the article was calling such argumentation out?
 
 

To try and say “any example of capitalism which uses the same systems but does not result in the protection of the participant’s rights is not capitalism” is a no-true-Scotsman fallacy. The no-true-Scotsman, or Appeal to Purity fallacy, is a logical fallacy in which the defendant moves the goalposts of the thing he is defending so that counterexamples will not apply to it. I mention this because, again, it will be relevant later.
 
To the author’s credit though, they finish the sentence with “but in the current context the private ownership of property is the key component”.

 
Completely false. If individual rights can't be a component of capitalism, why can property rights (which are a subset of individual rights)?
 
You seem to be misunderstanding what a no-true-Scotsman fallacy is, or how it works. I haven't "moved the goalposts". It would only be a no-true-Scotsman fallacy if I had begun with a different definition, and then changed it to exclude counterexamples without accepting that the original definition was successfully invalidated or undermined.
 
 

However, directly after this we hit another stumbling point. To quote the article: “So, the first question to ask when someone criticises[sic] capitalism in this way is whether they accept the definition. If they don't, their argument can be dismissed as a straw man, as all they are really doing is listing things they find objectionable and labelling them "capitalism".”
 
Here what we find is another no-true-Scotsman fallacy. This is where one of the previous passages becomes relevant again. If we define capitalism as Darkademic insists, that is, an economic system in which capital is traded freely and human rights are protected, then most objections to it on the basis of its consequences are void.
 
In other words, he is defining a system by what it results in, rather than by what it actually is. This is a no-true-Scotsman fallacy.
 
To put it simply “If it results in a negative outcome, it isn’t capitalism.”

 
It isn't a no-true-Scotsman fallacy, for the same reason as above.
 
This is a straw man on your part however, because at no point did I rule out "negative outcomes" as part of the definition. Again, if property rights are a valid basis for capitalism, then so are individual rights.

 

This is highly problematic. To call back again to an earlier paragraph, this is where we run into problems with the definitions he has given, except for the one provided by Merriam Webster. The definitions given by the Ayn Rand Lexicon and Capitalism.org are dependent upon not just the internal workings of the system, but also the results of the system.

 
No, they aren't. As above.
 
By your own standards, socialism can't include the public ownership of the means of production because it's "a result". Political/economic systems are defined by their principles which are translated into laws, structures and institutions. Necessarily implicit are some of the direct effects of these things. If the law states that nobody can privately own the means of production, but everyone ignores the law and does anyway, could it still be called socialism?
 
 

To provide an example, let us say I toss a vase. It hits the floor and bounces off. Now I toss another identical vase, and it hits the floor and shatters. The action I have taken, the toss, is still a toss regardless of whether the vase shatters.
 
If you were to attempt in a court of law to argue that you did not toss the owner’s vase and are therefore not responsible because the vase shattered on impact, and only vases which bounce can be said to have been tossed, you would lose the case, and probably be laughed out of the courtroom.
 
As we can see, if we define a system by the outcome and not by the system itself, then we can get away with anything. Defining capitalism as a system which can only result in the protection of human rights immediately immunizes it from any criticism, since any negative effects on human rights is automatically not capitalism.
 
I would point out that this is a double-edged sword. If you defined socialism in this same manner, not by its definition by rather by its result, you could wave away every single crime that has ever been pinned to its name.
 
“That’s not real socialism, real socialism results in prosperity.”
 
When put in that context, I am sure the problem becomes obvious. No anti-socialist would accept this argument as valid.

 
This is just more of the same. Dealt with above.
 
 

And to be fair to Darkademic, they do make an attempt at covering this hole in their argument. They say this about applying the same logic to socialism: “At first this may seem like a weak "no true Scotsman" defense, similar to the "real socialism has never been tried" argument whereby the catastrophic and blood-soaked history of socialism is brushed off as simply not being "real socialism". However, criticisms of socialism need not modify the definition provided by socialists (or found in Marxist literature); an explanation can be given as to why the ideal is unattainable by identifying the steps that necessarily lead to its unravelling, irrespective of the intentions of those attempting to implement such a system.”
 
At first glance this argument might appear valid, but upon closer examination, it becomes painfully clear what this actually is.
 
This is simply an argument without any evidence. He asserts that “criticisms of socialism need not modify the definition provided by socialists (or found in Marxist literature); an explanation can be given as to why the ideal is unattainable by identifying the steps that necessarily lead to its unravelling, irrespective of the intentions of those attempting to implement such a system.”
 
In simpler terms “My argument about true capitalism does not apply to true socialism because true socialism is impossible.”
 
But there is a problem with this argument. It is just an assertion. There is no evidence provided to reinforce it. He asserts the impossibility of the success of socialism, and then fails to name any social, political, or economic principles which would actually make socialism impossible.
 
Notably, he also fails to give a definition of what exactly “socialism” is, merely referring to “the definition provided by socialists (or found in Marxist literature)”. This is a profoundly unhelpful definition, since many different socialist or even Marxist works give different definitions for what exactly socialism is.
 
In reality, Darkademic has not actually made an argument here, he has merely handwaved the counterargument without properly addressing it.
 
Put most simply, the above argument is merely a special pleading fallacy. “My argument about true capitalism does not apply to true socialism, because they’re different.”
 
However, merely asserting this does not make it true, and since he has provided no evidence, all we are left with is the assertion. Therefore, this argument is not valid and can be safely dismissed.

 
This is a fair point, but it didn't deserve this much of a response. Debunking socialism is outside the scope of the article, so I didn't feel it necessary to go into any great detail. In my other blog posts I state this explicitly and refer the reader to books/authors, so I'll probably just do the same here.
 
 

Entering the section labeled “Analysis”, the second sentence we encounter there is this: “Firstly, no causal relationship can be demonstrated between capitalism and the harm it is allegedly responsible for.”
 
This is, in the most basic sense, correct. It is possible for a capitalist system, a system defined by private or corporate ownership of capital goods, by investments that are determined by private decision, and by prices, production, and the distribution of goods that are determined mainly by competition in a free market, to exist without causing severe human rights abuses. Denmark is a good example of a system without egregious human rights abuses that exists along this model. It is the best-case example of capitalism. It is also, unfortunately, a rare case.
 
However, it is very much possible to demonstrate a causal relationship between the driver of capitalism, and the harm the system is allegedly responsible for.
 
I refer to the profit motive. Put simply, the profit motive is the impetus for individuals and collectives to behave in such a way that will maximize their profits. This has caused some very serious issues over the years.
 
[...] (19 paragraphs)
 
I could end the essay here, having dealt with the primary thesis of the article I am responding to, but I have only worked through about half the article, so I shall continue for the sake of closure.

 
This is where you've dealt with my second main point; that a causal relationship cannot be demonstrated between capitalism and the charges levelled against it.
 
I feel a bit guilty skipping over 19 paragraphs here, but they can effectively be summarised as "the profit motive causes people to do bad things and/or leads to undesirable outcomes", an assertion that is illustrated via examples.
 
Essentially, you're saying that allowing something is the same as causing something. Well, it simply isn't. If there's no rule against something, it doesn't follow that the lack of a rule is responsible for someone doing that thing. The responsibility for performing an action rests entirely with the individual performing said action.
 
You also implicitly assert that the profit motive is caused by capitalism, but it isn't. Profit is simply trading a lesser value for a greater value, and this is a requirement of life. If you continually trade greater values for lesser ones, ultimately you will die.
 
But even then, capitalism doesn't dictate that one must pursue profit, nor prescribe any particular values or morality. Voluntary altruism is entirely compatible with capitalism. Later you'll assert that "the system enables" certain actions, and is therefore culpable, but you fail to bridge the logical gap and it remains a non sequitur.
 
Not dictating how people should act is a key feature of capitalism. A free market is a market free from force. How people choose act when force is absent is a matter of ethics, not politics or economics.
 
I simply refer you back to the football analogy in the article, which you later, again incorrectly, dismiss as "no-true-Scotsman" fallacy.

 

Following the claim about causal relationships, the author states that capitalism does not merely exist or not exist but can differ from place to place. In their own words: “…capitalism doesn't merely "exist or not", it exists in degrees that vary by location and over time.”

This is also true. As mentioned above, Denmark is a good example of capitalism where the profit motive has been effectively muzzled. Controlled capitalism is not a completely bad thing. It has worked quite well for Scandinavia. Meanwhile in the United States capitalism has a much longer leash and living conditions have suffered accordingly.

Our life-expectancy is lower, infant mortality is higher, and healthcare is much more expensive on the private market, among many other problems.

 
In 2018 Denmark was ranked higher on the Index of Economic Freedom than the United States, and only a few places below it in the Economic Freedom of the World report. There are many respects in which the Danish economy is freer than that of the United States (no state derived minimum wage, market forces at work in the education system, very relaxed business regulations).
 
Those on the left in the UK also like to point to Scandinavian countries as examples of "socialism" or "controlled capitalism", but in reality they are among the most economically free countries in the world and and do perfectly well as evidence for the link between economic freedom and prosperity.
 
For starters:
 
Attached File  NordicSocialism.png   35.21KB   0 downloads
 
https://iea.org.uk/i...e-so-is-britain
 
https://fee.org/arti...avian-socialism
 
https://www.barrons....ism-51554296401
 
 

The next point he makes is “Thirdly, there exists a strong positive correlation between economic freedom and prosperity.”

This is true enough, but not perhaps as strongly correlated as it would first appear. While both the United States and Denmark come in near the top of the list (at 12 and 14 respectively), Denmark is decidedly more prosperous than the United States in terms of public welfare, ability to get a job, and many other factors.

 
Earlier you criticised me for not providing evidence for my assertion that socialism fails, yet here you simply assert that Denmark is "decidedly more prosperous".
 
More re: Denmark:
 
https://www.youtube....QGcKcQ&t=18m36s
 

https://www.thelocal...s-not-socialist

 

Denmark would rank as the 49th poorest state if it was a US state.
 
Of course, you can point to specific ways in which people's quality of life is better in Denmark, but it's really neither here nor there in terms of an argument against capitalism given how close the two countries are in terms of overall economic freedom.
 
 

However, it is also worth mentioning that the correlation between economic freedom and political freedom is also tenuous. Indeed, the first and second slots on the economic freedom index are occupied by Hong Kong and Singapore respectively. As I type this essay, Hong Kong is currently in the midst of an attempted revolution against their despotic government, and the same political party has ruled Singapore since its inception. Having homosexual intercourse in Singapore is punishable by caning or even prison, public gatherings are prohibited without a government permit, and speaking out can land you in prison.

 
The correlation between economic freedom and political freedom is tenuous, but so what? Earlier you were arguing that capitalism is a purely economic system, yet here you're surprised that it's not necessarily strongly associated with non-economic factors?
 
A country can prosper economically while violating non-economic rights, this is not inconsistent with anything I've said about capitalism. That isn't to say that I support such rights violations, or think that combating them isn't important (the form of capitalism I advocate absolutely prohibits such violations), just that it isn't relevant to the case being made re: prosperity.
 
Tangentially, I don't support capitalism because it leads to prosperity, I support it because it's morally right.
 
 

Meanwhile though, a strong positive correlation has been found between how organized a given country’s labor is, and how democratic that country is. Curiously, the Nordic nations once again thrust themselves to the forefront here. Scandinavia seems to be a great intersection of these ideas, where ease of doing business, a strong social safety net, and powerful unions all combine to form perhaps the closest thing on Earth to the ideal capitalist utopia. The irony here being that this is not achieved through the government taking a back seat to business, but instead with the government asserting itself and working in tandem with unions to keep capitalism in check and to distribute the profits among the people.

 
Again, no sources or details. Bit of a double-standard don't you think?
 
I would point out that unions are not anti-capitalist, they are actually one of the proper ways in which workers rights, better working conditions etc. should be achieved.
 
 

Continuing on, Darkademic provides us with the following paragraph: “Evidence of capitalism's causal culpability is simply absent, and many of the examples that are provided directly conflict with the principles that define capitalism. For example, slavery is a violation of the most basic of rights to the extent that it could be considered the very antithesis of capitalism. The fact that slave traders made a profit—pointed to as evidence of the capitalistic nature of slavery—is entirely irrelevant; profit is not what defines capitalism. Indeed, as Daniel Hannan (2018) pointed out, "Capitalist Britain 'literally' overthrew slavery, a point echoed by Michael Hurd (2015) with regards to slavery in the United States; "In the 19th century, it was the comparatively capitalist North which drove out slavery from the plantation-based, anti-capitalist economy of the South."

This is a rather peculiar pair of examples, as both “Capitalist Britain” and the United States were colonialist powers, and earlier Darkademic had made it quite clear that colonialism and capitalism were not the same thing. Britain by this time had a wide range of colonial holdings all over the globe, and the United States was busily colonizing the West, and would go on to expand into the Pacific Ocean.

This would appear to be a contradiction in Darkademic’s argument. At one moment he claims that colonialism and capitalism are separate, and at another he is praising a pair of “capitalist” colonial powers for overthrowing slavery.

It would appear that he is now reneging on his earlier definitions of capitalism as “Capitalism is a social system based on the recognition of individual rights, including property rights, in which all property is privately owned” and “The recognition of individual rights entails the banishment of physical force from human relationships: basically, rights can be violated only by means of force. In a capitalist society, no man or group may initiate the use of physical force against others. The only function of the government, in such a society, is the task of protecting man's rights, i.e., the task of protecting him from physical force; the government acts as the agent of man's right of self-defense, and may use force only in retaliation and only against those who initiate its use; thus the government is the means of placing the retaliatory use of force under objective control.”

Since both Britain and the United States used force and did not respect individual rights (women and minorities could not vote, and both Britain and the United States used deadly force against the natives that they were oppressing and/or expelling), they would by the above definitions not be capitalist. So why were they cited as being capitalist?

 
Why are you referring to the definitions that you have already dismissed, and I put to one side for the purposes of the article?
 
"Capitalism and colonialism are not the same thing" is compatible with "a degree of capitalism can coexist with a degree of colonialism", so there is no contradiction.
 
I stated that capitalism can exist in degrees, and you responded to this with agreement, so either you're being disingenuous, or you suffered short term memory loss.
 
My exact wording was "the conditions and institutions that are being described have no casual or necessary relationship with capitalism, and range from the merely coincidental to the fully irreconcilable." Coincidental, as in, can coexist but are not causally linked.
 
I also described colonialism as "at odds with" capitalism, which is also true. Systems and institutions that are in conflict can coexist, albeit often with inconsistent, unstable or violent results.
 
 

There is one way to make this work though. Using the definition of capitalism as provided by Merriam-Webster “An economic system characterized by private or corporate ownership of capital goods, by investments that are determined by private decision, and by prices, production, and the distribution of goods that are determined mainly by competition in a free market.”, capitalism and colonialism become compatible, and the contradiction vanishes.

However, I do not believe that it was Darkademic’s intent to reach this conclusion of compatibility. They explicitly state that capitalism and colonialism are separate systems, and that they are at-odds.

Under the definition given by Merriam-Webster, capitalism and colonialism become compatible and capable of co-exist in the same greater economic sphere, which would have disastrous implications for Darkademic’s insistence that the crimes of colonialism are in no way linked to the crimes of capitalism, since if the two can co-exist, then it would apparently be possible for capitalism to feed off of the resources created by colonialism, thus creating a positive feed-back loop which would encourage colonialism to become more extractive and capitalism more hungry for raw materials to refine into finished goods.

This is entirely speculative though. Given these two apparent contradictions in the original author’s argument, I must depart this section without a conclusion, since any conclusion reached would apparently contradict the original author’s intent. The ball is now in Darkademic’s court here, and I do hope he updates his argument accordingly.

 
See above.

 

The next paragraph goes thusly: “With regards to hunger, disease and a lack of clean water, it firstly must be noted that these are not conditions that have arisen in the 200 or so years since anything resembling capitalism came into existence, they are simply the default. They are issues that, after plaguing humanity throughout history, are rapidly disappearing thanks to capitalism. Tens of millions have been lifted from poverty as a result of people being free to innovate, produce and trade goods and services, and there are a plethora of statistics that could be cited to support this.”

And here we reach my personal favorite part of any discussion about economics: Statistics. Because statistics cannot lie. However, and this is very important, statistics can be misrepresented, and this becomes relevant in reference to the claims that Darkademic has just made, and the evidence that they provide. To support their claim, Darkademic provides a pair of graphs. We will cover them in the order of their appearance.
 
[..]

The above chart would appear to make a very positive case for capitalism. After all, if it is accurate, then extreme poverty shall soon be extinct in the world.

However, there come two problems with this graph. Accuracy, and definitions.

Look at the graph again. Notice how “extreme poverty” is left undefined. So, what is “extreme poverty”?

“Extreme poverty” means living on 1.80 dollars per day. This is really quite a small amount of money. Just because you make two dollars a day does not suddenly mean that you are out of poverty. Indeed, many Americans working for 15 dollars an hour find themselves still struggling to make ends meet. This would be no different in a third world country.

A first world citizen and a third world citizen have the same basic needs: shelter, clean water, and reliable and edible food. 1.90 dollars a day simply will not provide this. It is a mathematical impossibility. There are few places in America where you an even buy a donut for 1.90 dollars, much less pay rent and afford food.

A different demarcation, called the Ethical Poverty Line, has been drawn at 7.40 dollars per day. This is still less than half of what some of the poorest Americans make in an hour. As of 2013, over four billion people lived at or below this income level. More than half of the world’s population.

Since 1981, the percentage of the world’s population that lives at or below this threshold has only decreased by a mere 3%.

Capitalism has not solved poverty, as the graph or article provided by Darkademic would have you believe. Capitalists have merely redefined poverty as a state of existence so obscenely destitute that it is a miracle that those who live that existence aren’t dying in droves. Except it is not a miracle, because they are. Twenty million per year. Victims of inescapable poverty forced on them by capitalists who drain away the wealth of their states.

 
The argument was never made that "capitalism has solved poverty", so this is a straw man. Even if the purest form of capitalism was implemented everywhere, raising billions of people out of poverty would take long time.
 
Also, again, capitalism exists to varying degrees, so it's expected that poverty will not decline at the same rate everywhere (and will likely increase in places where there's little economic freedom).
 
The purpose of those graphs was to show that poverty is declining despite capitalism supposedly causing poverty.
 
All you've done is change the threshold which firstly doesn't refute the fact that the situations of those at the very bottom are gradually becoming better, and it also doesn't make a difference to the argument that poverty is declining, because you get a similarly positive picture when you take into account such tweaking of the income threshold for defining poverty.
 
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The upper income bracket continues to increase and the lowest one declines, then those in the middle remain more stable as people move up through them.
 
"Poverty decline denialism" has also been addressed elsewhere: https://reason.com/2...line-denialism/
 
 

And the wealth is being drained away. In 2012, 3.3 trillion dollars were extracted from developing countries and sent to Europe and North America. If we tally up all the wealth extracted since 1980, that number jumps up to 16.3 trillion dollars. That is approximately the Gross Domestic Product [GDP] of the United States, taken from a part of the world with only a tiny portion of the agricultural and industrial capacity.

4.2 Trillion dollars have sent to the West in the form of interest payments on loans. Loans that these countries and their people often have to take out, or risk being plunged into the kind of disastrous poverty that I have described above.

Another form of wealth extraction is much more traditional: minerals. Oil companies make huge profits from extracting unrefined petroleum in places like Nigeria, and then keep the vast bulk of that profit for themselves, paying their workers in the third world just enough to not starve.

This is not how successful economies are built. The North American and European economies are built on the consumption of luxury goods, things like telephones, computers, fancy furniture, exotic foods, and so on. The third world does not have enough capital spread over enough people to afford luxury goods. All they have enough for is food, water and shelter, if they are very lucky. Expecting the third world to become prosperous like the West when their economy is still functioning on the same basic subsistence method as it was 500 years ago is wishful thinking at best. A sadistic joke at worst.

But these extraction methods pale in comparison with the greatest technique of all: illicit capital flight. The way this is done is very simple. Corporations falsify their prices on trade invoices, and then they get to keep the extra money. Essentially, it’s a form of tax-evasion, although it has also been used to launder money.

Breaking down all the ways that capital is extracted, we reach the ration of one dollar of aid going into the developing world for every twenty-four dollars going out.

So no, capitalism is not developing the third world, and poverty has not significantly decreased. In fact, in 2015, it was found that 71% of the world’s population still lives on less than ten dollars per day.

 
"Extracted" how? If it's by force, it's not capitalism.
 
Similarly, how people and businesses act within capitalism outside of the restrictions the system imposes are not caused by capitalism. You have not demonstrated cause and effect (dealt with earlier).
 
Capitalism isn't developing the third-world because it barely exists in the third-world.

 

There are also other problems with Darkademic’s graph, such as the fact that the measurements going back past 1981 are based on GDP and not income, which can be very unequally distributed, and that virtually all of the reduction in extreme poverty occurred in China (an apparent contradiction to the author’s claims that free-market capitalism brings prosperity, as the market in China so stringently state-controlled (but not owned, more on that later) that their economic system is often referred to as “state capitalism”) but that would be beating a dead horse at this point.

 
The enormous reduction of poverty in China coincided with massive increases in private ownership and enterprise. Capitalism leads to prosperity to the degree it's implemented.
 
I visit China regularly as I have family there, and I've had business dealings there. The Chinese economy isn't nearly as state-controlled as you might think, and outside the big state-run enterprises, the market is surprisingly free. Obviously, nowhere near "true" capitalism, but in some respects closer than Western countries (in other respects, not).

 

Next, Darkademic provides us with another graph:

This data is to the best of my knowledge more or less accurate. However, to attribute this growth in life-expectancies to capitalism would be disingenuous. After all, no one is going to live longer because I freely sold someone a rug. No, this increase in life-expectancy is a function of technology, not capitalism.

It should be noticed that life expectancy begins to dramatically increase right around the year 1800. Curiously, this is about when the Enlightenment and government interest in science began to really pick up. It was with government incentive that canning was invented, so that Napoleon would have food for his troops as they marched across Europe (Napoleon gave the world many great things, but that is a subject for a different time and place). It was at public institutions in Great Britain that the process of refrigeration was first experimented with, and it was in the basement of a British public hospital; Saint Mary’s, that the penicillium mold was first isolated and refined into Penicillin.

Indeed, through history but most especially in the modern era the state, not the venture capitalist, has been responsible for the inception of countless technologies that have made the world a better place.

Ironically enough given the obscene number of memes claiming that is was a capitalist creation, the smart phone in your pocket is a perfect example of the government being responsible for the creation of technology. The GPS that tracks your location and gives you directions, the touchscreen that allows for easy and intuitive navigation, the voice-activated assistants, the internet you watch cat videos with (and for that matter the algorithm Google uses to sort your searches), and the computer chips that make it all work were developed in part or in full by the government. The Apple company itself received five hundred thousand dollars from the government in an investment grant to get off the ground.

Even the pharmaceutical industry takes in 30 billion dollars of government money each year. Curious then that these same companies are now shutting down their research and development laboratories in favor of taking data from publicly owned and funded laboratories instead, and yet somehow these companies, despite being buoyed by not having to pay for laboratories or research and with billions of government dollars, are unable to spare enough vaccines to immunize the third world, or even to bring down insulin prices.

 
You overlook the fact that all of the government's money and ability to fund things ultimately comes from the private sector. It's no coincidence that most technological advances came from countries that embraced capitalism the most.
 
If I stole hundreds of billions of pounds/dollars and ploughed them into research programs, I'm sure I'd be able to come up with something too.
 
Government doesn't produce anything, it steals stuff from others and reallocates it. If something of value to people, the private sector is perfectly capable of providing it, often more cheaply and efficiently.

 

Again, it's not a 1:1 relationship, so economic freedom or a lack of government intervention isn't the only factor in terms of technological advancement, but you haven't provided any evidence that it hinders it, so there's not a whole lot I can respond to.
 
 

The author then goes into a brief analogy about football and emerges with this line: “In a capitalist economy, there is no universal objective. People are free to act in accordance with their values as long as they respect property rights and don't initiate force against another person.

Whether people act benevolently in such circumstances is not a question of politics or economics, but of morality.”

Brushing past that once again capitalism has been implicitly defined as “only capitalism if it has a benevolent outcome”, the latter half of this statement is problematic in that it is an attempt to distance capitalism from morality by claiming that the consequences are due to the actions of individuals, not the system.

That ignores the fact that the system is what enables individuals. Capitalism gives certain people the means to economically exploit others, allows the profit motive off the leash, and rewards people for exploiting others in the most effective (often coinciding with the most brutal, see King Leopold) way. Claiming that capitalism as a system is somehow divorced from what people use it to accomplish is nonsense. It is much akin to saying, “Fascism didn’t kill the Jews, anti-Semites killed them”.

Like many things in the article this is correct, but only in the most technical sense. Fascism enables mass slaughter but does not personally enact it, just as capitalism enables mass exploitation but does not personally enact it. It merely leaves the door open and looks the other way.

 
Already dealt with this above, but I'll reiterate somewhat.
 
I never once made the argument that "it's only capitalism if it has a benevolent outcome". A capitalist system inhabited entirely of psychopathic murderers would not be pleasant place to live.

 

Put another way, what I said was that if people choose to treat each other like dirt in a capitalist system, that's their right, but it isn't because of the capitalist system. If the majority of people are so inclined, this would undermine a socialist system too. Politics follows from ethics, not the other way around.
 
Yet again, you fail to demonstrate causality. Allowing something, or even incentivising something, is not the same as causing something. Systems don't act, people do, however some some systems necessarily lead to certain outcomes by virtue of the practices and rules they are defined by.
 
Private property and free trade do not result in malevolence or cruelty, however socialism, by virtue of its dispensing with markets and means of economic calculation, causes harm. Economic calculation is impossible under socialism, so the harm is unavoidable irrespective of how benevolent those in charge are. Similarly, this harm will occur on a gradient, and will be proportionate to how consistently and completely socialism implemented (as shown by the numerous sources I provided). The economic calculation problem and a broader debunking of socialism is, again, outside the scope of this discussion.

 

 

The next sentence is “The basis for blaming capitalism for the world's problems disintegrates further when it is taken into account that no country is (or ever has been) fully capitalist.”

This is true. No country has ever been fully capitalist or fully statist, much less fully socialist. However, it should be noticed that the closer to “true” capitalism a country gets (as in less government regulation and more free enterprise), the more dystopian it becomes.

The United States itself is a good example of this. During the Gilded Age there was effectively no (enforced) government regulations that limited private business. This resulted in a distribution of wealth so lopsided that only one time period in the entire history of the world rivals it: the present day.

During the Gilded Age corporations ran wild, merging and consolidating at such a rapid pace that soon many major industries such as steel, railroads, shipping, and oil were controlled by monopolistic trusts. Monopolies were technically illegal, but the corporations were so rich and the government so toothless that politicians and even the presidential candidates were paid off. In fact, the only time the government did anything was when workers went on strike and the capitalists began to feel the pinch, they would go to the state government and have them call out the national guard to violently break the strike. When the government couldn’t or wouldn’t do this, private mercenaries called Pinkertons were called upon in their stead.

When capital is this powerful, it becomes the government. They call the shots. That leaves them with the ability to start dictating things on their own terms, like the meaning of words. If they had wanted to, they could have dictated what a slave was, and the government would have danced to their tune. Capital must be kept in check, or else it swallows society whole.

Millions of workers and their families scraped by on poverty wages and worked 12-hour shifts. Women and even children were sent to work in the factories and were sometimes paid in coupons that could only be spent at company stores, effectively enslaving them (being forced to work for no real money) to the company that they worked for; if they tried to leave, they would be left with nothing.

This came to an end not with the leaders of the market suddenly growing a conscience, but rather with strict government intervention, spearheaded by progressive Theodore Roosevelt. He broke up the trusts and spearheaded wealth redistribution.

Ironically, he may well have saved capitalism by doing this, as the strikes were getting larger, harder to suppress, and more militant, with the Socialist Party of America growing stronger with each passing election as they captured entire towns, cities, and even congressional seats. If Roosevelt had not come to power, who knows what kind of world we might now live in.

 
I've provided a long list of sources that demonstrate the correlation between capitalism and prosperity, and none of the above demonstrates causality. For the umpteenth time time, things that happen coincidentally with capitalism are not necessarily caused by capitalism.

 

Ethics is an overriding force. Imagine a capitalist system inhabited entirely by people who share your ethics; are you saying you would uncontrollably start exploiting people and treating others with indifference? People are simply the unthinking slaves of whatever social or political structure you put them into?

 

Conversely, we have one of the most statist countries in the world, Norway. In Norway, state-owned enterprises comprise 87% of the country’s GDP, and a full 59% of national wealth is also state-owned.

As of 2018, Norway was rated themost democratic nation in the world by the Democracy Index, and the 7thleast corrupt country in the world by Transparency International (Four of the nations above Norway were, in no particular order, Denmark, New Zealand, Finland, and Sweden, all of which share Norway’s government form and particular economic system, although not as pronounced. Iceland, Sweden, New Zealand and Denmark were also the nations immediately following Norway on the most democratic list). For context, the United States wasn’t even in the top 20 least corrupt or most democratic countries. We rank 22 in corruption and 25 in democracy.

For more reference, only 31% of China’s national wealth is owned by the state, and only 30% of Venezuela's economy is state-controlled.

It would appear then, that statist Norway, an ideology which Darkademic has claimed has caused huge amounts of suffering and death, and is impossible to build and economy around, is in fact the most effective model at preserving freedom (Norway also has the highest press-freedom ranking in the world, according to reporters without borders. The United States ranks at 48 on the same list).

Norway is decidedly a socialist state. By either definition, the state owning the means of production and distribution or the workers owning it (since the state owns it and the state is democratic, the workers own their workplaces through the government). And it stands as easily the most prosperous country in the world by every imaginable measure.

This is a direct affront to the claims of Darkademic, who claims that such a system is doomed to fail. And yet Norway stands tall, defying them.

This is not merely a contradiction in rhetoric, this is a contradiction with observable reality. One that the author has failed to address in any form. Once again, I will assume the best, and say that Darkademic probably did not know the details about Norway.

Some might claim that Norway is still capitalist, but I would refer them to Darkademic himself, who has this to say: “As Rand (1966) explained "we are a mixed economy, i.e., a mixture of capitalism and statism, of freedom and controls."”

Given that more than 50% of Norway’s wealth and GDP is state controlled, I feel comfortable placing them over the line in the statist/socialist camp. And, ironically, it would appear that far from being an inhibitor of freedom, statist Norway is one of the freest countries on Earth. It would seem to imply the economic freedom and political freedom, as mentioned before, are not particularly correlated to one another.

 
Norway is anomalous for several reasons (see links below). I even concede in the article: "Economies are immensely complicated systems composed of innumerable moving parts [...] so there are countless factors other than economic freedom that can impact an economy's success".

 

Any trend involving so many factors is going to have anomalies where third-factors come into play. For your argument to be meaningful here, you can't just say "well this country is statist and successful", you have to show that it's successful because it's statist, and perhaps more importantly show that it'd be less successful if it wasn't.

 

https://fee.org/arti...atic-socialism/

 

https://thefederalis...rivately-owned/

 

 

The next paragraph of interest is this: “Which brings us to the third point; it can be shown that increased economic freedom strongly correlates with increased prosperity, whereas increased amounts of economic planning (the fundamental characteristic of socialism) correlates with decreased prosperity.”

Given what I have demonstrated so far, this is plainly incorrect.

 
Given what I have demonstrated so far, no it isn't. One cherry-picked outlier doesn't disprove the overall trend.
 
 

Moving on, Darkademic spends another paragraph listing the benefits of free-market capitalism, all of which I have already previously debunked, so I will skip them. They then provide a link to a compilation of evidence for the benefits of capitalism, all of which I have again already debunked before in this review. I think it worth mentioning though that of all the “evidence” he provides there, most of it is from right-wing or libertarian think tanks like the Cato institute and the Heritage foundation, and aside from a single outlier which I found, none of them established a link between economic freedom and political or personal freedom.


 "I will superficially address and then dismiss 80+ sources because I disagree with them."
 
You didn't look through them very carefully if you think most of them came from right-wing/libertarian think tanks, many are simply from academic journals.


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